Review of Derren Brown: Secret on Broadway

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    September 16, 2019
    Review by:

    I want you to go see Derren Brown: Secret by Andy Nyman, Derren Brown and Andrew O’Connor, directed by O’Connor and Nyman and now playing at Broadway’s Cort Theatre, as soon as possible so that we can talk about it. If I tell you the "Secret" now, it will spoil it for you. And, at the risk of being prescriptive, I declare that you should have this thrill in your life. This show magnifies the basic reason we go to the theatre: To willingly suspend our disbelief in a mysterious alternate universe that surrounds us every day. I promised Mr. Brown to not tell you what happens in this show. Before that, I promised to write this review. Such a conundrum, which will be resolved the moment you see Derren Brown: Secret, so that we can be in the club together.

    Here is what does not happen: You will not be subjected to an arrogant charlatan who confidently insists that he knows you better than you know yourself and then attempts to disconnect you from your inner peace when he is wrong. This is not a 1930’s Vaudeville medium show. The excitement is not reserved only for audience members chosen to directly participate. You can just hang back and Brown will entertain you - unless you are a lizard person - because inviting people onto the stage introduces the tension of tearing open the fabric of the show; and the thrill is seeing Brown turn those ripped seams into impossible demonstrations of controlled illusion. Okay, I kind of just told you that there is audience participation… and illusion. It may be okay that I told you that. Shhhh…

    Don’t say that you heard it here, but your reality will be altered... or will it? It could be that Brown simply pulls back the veil over that which you deny you already know and lighting designer, Ben Stanton, illuminates it for you while you find yourself giddy over your human condition. And it’s possible you and your date will be picking your chins up off the floor when you see what Brown shows you behind that veil. Hint: Not a wizard. I’m not saying genuine jaw drops happened to my companion and me, but I might be winking at you.

    I felt lighter after the show; like it lifted some suffocating judgment off of me.

    Speaking of judgment, when my editor informed me that the show’s run time was two and a half hours, I feared some narcissistic character with a one man show that drones on until my eyes droop and then I miss the big reveal. I’m not saying there’s a big reveal; that’s a twitch in my eyelid. In my red velvet seat in the gorgeous Cort Theatre, I was having a really lovely and enlightening adventure in the scientific discovery of human nature dressed up to look a lot like magic. A whole damn lot. And my eyes did not feel one bit heavy.

    Do not miss this. Invite your friends to come with you so you can all discuss freely afterwards. Derren Brown: Secret is a delight far more satisfying than caramel donuts delivered to you on the horn of a unicorn.

    (Photo by Matthew Mirphy)

    "This one-mentalist show, in which Mr. Brown peers into the minds of his audience, offers exhilaration and comfort to New York City’s head cases."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "The show leaves you in a state of joyful bafflement. Can you believe it? You don’t have to, and that’s the fun. It’s a con game, and Brown is a consummate pro."
    Adam Feldman for Time Out New York

    "Brown is great at setting you up to believe that so much more will be revealed: He cautions us repeatedly during his mind-reading act not to think of anything really bad, like an extramarital affair, otherwise he may have no choice but to just blurt it out from the stage. Not to fear: Brown and his collaborators — the directors and co-authors Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman — are first-rate at soliciting willing volunteers and leaving the rest of us cowards to our terrible secrets."
    Robert Hofler for The Wrap

    "It's only fair to honor Brown's request and not reveal too much about what happens in the course of the evening. It also makes for a better experience not to have too much of an idea about what's going to happen. Suffice it to say that when the show is over, the entire audience pours out into the streets heatedly asking each other if they have any clue as to how he does it."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other tricks of the trade on his gleefully willing, how’d-he-do-it subjects. Previously at the Atlantic Theater Company two years ago, Brown now expands his show to a Broadway-sized house without losing the sense of intimate wonder. In some ways, it makes his feats of bamboozlement all the more impressive as he sends Frisbees out into the audience to find far-flung volunteers."
    Frank Rizzo for Variety